05 September 2008


The SMART fortwo

It is not a Matchbox car. It is a real automobile. A "Smart" Car... and Mercedes-Benz is responsible with a little help from the inventor of the Swatch Watch!

Without counting any European sightings, I encountered my first Smart Car or "Smart fortwo" in the United States two weeks ago while walking through DuPont Circle. I immediately took a great disliking to the car. SmartUSA uses the tag line, "Open Your Mind" in promoting the automobile. I'm afraid that I am having quite a difficult time with this one. My mind remains closed.

While the manufacturer boasts that the Smart car is safe and gets terrific gas mileage, I, of course, am looking at the car from a design perspective and I just don't think it is pretty. It's not even whimsical or fun. It's just plain dumb. What bothers me even more is that my favorite car manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz or Daimler-Benz AG, is responsible for producing these Smart cars. Mercedes is also responsible for producing Maybach! Talk about going from heirloom apples to kumquats.

I am certainly not an autophile and I really could care less about the favorable media and press reviews of the car. I just don't like it. Plain and Simple. I think some ideas are better left in Europe. I hate to be such a downer, but if I am going to buy a car that resembles a Matchbox car, I am either going to buy a real Matchbox car and slide it all around my hardwood floors or I'm going to buy a MINI Cooper which is the child of automobile giant BMW. I do think MINI Cooper is cool.

My favorite and final tidbit about the Not so Excellent Smart Car is how it came to being. Preparations for the Smart fortwo began in the early 1990's with a Joint Venture between Mercedes-Benz and Swatch, the makers of Swatch watches known for their wide array of colorful designs. Nicolas Hayek, the inventor of the Swatch watch brought his ideas for an "ultra-urban" car to Mercedes-Benz.

In 1998, production of the car began in Hambach, France. That same year Smart became a fully owned subsidiary of Daimler-Benz AG. The Smart Car arrived in the States in January 2008. If you are interested in purchasing one, you are likely to encounter a four month to two year wait for the car. Go figure!

Not the car I want to be driving in the snow.